What Players Call Your Preflop Raises With

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In this video I want to do something a little bit different and instead talk a little bit about theory. I want to talk specifically about hand reading and more specifically situations where your hand reading spots where people call your preflop raise. This is really important when people are calling your opens or calling your isolation raises. Understanding this makes postflop a million times easier.

Let’s start by looking at an example. Say we’re playing a $2/$5 lot cash game with pocket 8s. We open at $20 and MP 1 and the cutoff calls – he’s a boring tag and we’re trying to figure out what the heck he called with. In this situation there are 3 options he has when he’s facing a $20 open. He can fold, he can call, or he can come over the top and 3-bet us. Which means that he’s going to have 3 different ranges. He’s going to have some hands that fold some hands that 3-bet, and some hands that call. When he does call, we obviously need to be very, very precise on that range so we can understand what they possibly have going into postflop, going into flops, turn, and rivers, and it makes it a million times easier to figure out when we should value bet thinner, where we should bluff more often, and of course everything in between.

Let’s start by thinking about the folding range first. These are all the hands that when they’re facing our $20 open, they would just say forget it and fold with and be done with them. Typically, his is just going to be all the hands that you don’t think they would ever flop or ever 3-bet with. It’s going to include things like jack/6 and 10/3 off suit, and king/5 off suit. This is a boring tag. They’re probably not calling with those kind of hands preflop.

In a situation like this, think about all the hands that would possibly fold. Typically to do that, you can just plug in all hands and then just start removing all the things that they would call with or 3-bet with. One quick thing about this range, is this range is typically going to be very, very large. Especially the tighter that your opponent is, the less often they’re going to be giving our you preflop, which means the more times they’re going to fold. This is going to be pretty thick especially for nits, boring tags, those kind of player types. If you’re playing against someone who’s a little more on the fishy side of the spectrum, it’s not going to be shocking to see a much smaller fold range, simply because they’re going to be calling and/or 3-betting more often preflop.

raising pocket eights

Now let’s take a moment and jump over to the calling range. This is obviously the range that we care the most about, because villain actually called. It’s very important that we build this range appropriately. What I like to do is think about all the hands that my opponent is reasonably going to give action with preflop. Let’s just say that we think they’re going to call with a 16% range. Again, we’ll just kind of get in here and get really nitty.

Let’s just say the we think this is the range of hands they’re typically going to give action with against our $20 open. You say, okay these are the hands that are in here and of course that means that all the hands that are not selected are being folded, so we’ll put them in the folding range that we just created. Then we want to think, okay but what are the hands that they’re going to 3-bet with? Because if they’re going to 3-bet with aces, it can’t be it their calling range. Unless of course this is someone who goes weighted, where maybe they’re going to call some percentage of the time, 3-bet some percentage of the time.

A quick note about that. Most players are typically binary, which means they’re either on or off. Meaning they’re either going to 3-bet or call it. They’re either going to call it or fold it. There’s typically not a lot of like, I’m going to do something half the time and another something half the time. When you’re talking about bad players or players who are really ABC straightforward, they are almost always going to be binary. Really good players, and especially more aggressive players, will be less binary. They’re going to have some extra weight in their range, so just be aware of that. When you’re building ranges for things like boring tags, you probably don’t have to worry about them flouting things like aces, and thus they’re probably not flouting things like queens plus ace king, that kind of stuff either.

The real questions I’m asking myself here, and we kind of talked about this in another video, is what is the weakest hand that they’re going to 3-bet? Are they going to 3-bet ace/queen? Are they going to 3-bet jacks and 10s? What do we think their 3-bet range is? In this situation, I’m going to make the assumption that their range is going to be all aces that are not ace/king and queens plus are going to get 3-bet, which means they’re flouting jacks, 10s, 9s, all that kind of stuff. Then you just start going through the rest of the stuff. Are they going to call 4/3 suited? Probably not. Are they going to 10/8 suited? They’re a boring tag, but yeah probably.

nitty 3bet range

QQ+/AK is only 2.6% of hands. Is villain really 3betting that tight here?

When you’re playing live, obviously things like suited aces become very, very popular to play. A lot of players are going to give action with them, and typically they don’t 3-bet, so they just flout them, and there you are. A quick comment about this. You can have 5 different players who are all looking at this exact same situation, and all 5 players are going to assign a different range. First and foremost, that’s okay. The way you build a range is going to be based on your experience, based upon how you view a boring tag, what your experiences have been with boring tags in the past. The exact range you build may be slightly different than mine. That’s okay. You do your best. You build the range as best you can and you use that information as you go forward into postflop and you make the best decision you can.

A showdown you may get information and you may see that villain had ace/deuce suited and you didn’t actually assign those. That’s okay. The next time that you’re in that exact situation, you’ll know that there’s probably these kinds of hands involved as well, and then you make better decisions going forward. For the time being, this is the range I’m going to assign. Of course that means that if you we skip over to the 3-betting range, we thought that if they’re going to flout this, it means their 3-betting range looks exactly like this.

Now there are some times when people are going to 3-bet hands that they wouldn’t flout with, but they would fold with. Maybe they would fold king/8 suited. They’re not going to flout it, but in this situation they say, “Looks like a good 3-bet flout.” You can find some folding hands that end up falling in the 3-betting range, but you typically don’t find folding hands that end up in the calling range. There’s just some little things you want to be keeping in mind here.

This is the over-arching framework that you need to understand. When you have an action preflop, think about the way they’re going to fork their range. If they can fold, or they can call, or they can 3-bet, think about which hands they would do with each of those things. Then build a range appropriately based upon the exact action you have. If we’re in this situation, where we go back to calling, bring up flopzilla and go back to the calling range that we assigned a moment ago, let’s just run with this for the time being.

Just a couple of quick things here. You may wonder when this range changes. There are some ways that this range can expand or of course, contract. Expansion is going to happen typically when your opponent is a decent player who has position, or a decent player who has stack depth, or skill edge, or those kind of things. Obviously weaker opponents don’t think about these kind of things. They don’t care as much about position. They typically don’t even understand what that is. Stack depth doesn’t matter much to them. They don’t really understand that. Skill edge, again they typically don’t have that. It’s not one of those thongs where they’re calling more. Weak players don’t call more because they have these extra edges in their favor, they simply call more because they want to see more flops.

ARE THEY CALLING WIDER HERE FOR A SPECIFIC REASON?

Understand who your opponent is, and which one is going to be more correct. Are they expanding their range here for a reason? Are they expanding their range here simply because they hate folding preflop? What is it? Just some extra questions to keep in mind here, especially when they’re calling you with position, good players, players who are decent. Definitely make sure you’re thinking about are they calling me wider here for 1 reason or the other? If yes, keep it in mind when you’re building that exact calling range.

Let’s go postflop for a minute. In this situation, we end up going heads-up to them. We go to an ace/7/3 board, and we’re debating whether or not we want we want to see bet $35 into a $47 pot. Now let’s take the range that they called us with preflop and explore that on this specific board. We have our dead cards over here. We have the calling range that they think they called their open raise with preflop right here, and we have the board texture right here. You’ll notice here that they don’t have a tremendous amount of monster hands. They have 23% top pair. They have a little bit of 2 pair in sets, but ultimately a large chunk of their range is going to be right here in no made hands. There’s going to be some weakish pairs. That alone is roughly 60% of their range right this moment.

A lot of players will panic when they get to this board, but if you’ve broken down their range, and you’ve thought about how that range realistically hits the board, it may be a situation that no longer scares you as much. You can only get to this point by 1, actually hammering down a really, really correct calling range when they call your $20 open preflop, and then 2, having practiced with this enough that you can actually understand this is how common ranges hit common textures like this, and how was my hand really performing and should I be nervous or should I be bluffing a large chunk of the time, or can I value bet even thinner? Again, you can only get there by doing this kind of work incessantly and getting to the point where it just becomes second nature.

That’s my mini-lesson today on understanding what people called you preflop raise with. Again, understanding, thinking about their action. Thinking about, okay they have 3 different responses they could have made between folding, 3-betting, or calling. Thinking about which one they made, which range that is likely made with, and of course, thinking about any expansion methods like are they calling more because they have position? Or extra stack depth? Or skill edge? Or anything like that? Or even things like are there extra weak players behind them, where they can call, induce those players to call as well? That’s definitely going to be another expansion metric that you definitely want to make sure you keep in mind.


Hopefully you enjoyed. Hopefully this teaches you the overall framework for how to start hand reading these situations better. Hopefully this inspires you to go out and start doing some of your own exploration. If you’re into that sort of thing, I actually have a brand new workbook that’s going to be right up your alley, where you can practice hand reading situations. There are lots of exercises for hand reading just like this spots, bit also many, many more including 3-bet pots, 4-bet situations, preflop, postflop, and everything in between.

HRWB-ebook-only

The workbook is broken up into 3 different sections. First section focuses on your own hand reading. Making sure you understand your own ranges very, very well. Section 2 is all about hand reading your opponents. That way you can really start practicing things exactly like this, again beyond just situations where they call you preflop. Then there’s also range versus range situations as well. There is literally no better resource for practicing and improving your hand reading skills on your own time, and at your own pace.

If you know you need to study, and you know you need to work on your hand reading skills, this is the book you’re going to want to pick up. Whether or not you grab the book, I hope you enjoyed this video. I hope you learned something new. As always, I’ll see you back next week with a brand new video. In the meantime, good luck out there and happy grinding.

SplitSuit

My name is James "SplitSuit" Sweeney and I'm a poker player, coach, and author. I've released 300+ videos, coached 500+ players, and co-founded the training site Red Chip Poker. Contact me if you need any help improving your poker game!

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